Christian Dior Autumn-Winter 2017
Vladimir Nabokov once said you can never actually read a book. Paradoxically, you can only reread it. The first pass is taken up almost completely by basic comprehension. The true appreciation comes on the second look.
As such, there’s a certain pointlessness to writing about fashion shows. A défilé de mode is a roughly 20-minute flash of art and sometimes spectacle, and the “stories” that come afterward are a rush to fit in into some sort of cultural or seasonal context.
But who cares if we sometimes miss the mark. It’s only clothes, right?
But just like rock and roll was “only” the music we loved to, and f*cked to — and we sometimes used to change the way society was structured — fashion is anything but trivial.
After all, our lives are anything but trivial, and fashion is the art of our lives. In that sense, it’s infinitely more important than a stuffy painting, slowly turning brown in a museum.
(“Would you destroy the Mona Lisa, or a cat?” an online quiz once asked. You may take the painting to the woodpile, please, because the cat is a soul — and art exists at the service of souls, never the other way around.)
All of which brings me, circuitously, to Dior AW17.
It’s one thing to see a collection live streaming on a computer. Another to see it in person. And yet another to touch it and experience it, as I had the opportunity to do at the Dior store on Avenue Montaigne in preparation for this piece.
It was last season’s collection: you know, the “fencing-inspired one.” But up close, an almost spooky storybook narrative emerged, with astrological ciphers in tarot-inspired designs, colorfully writ on ghostly, diaphanous materials.
Last season, Maria Grazia Chiuri seemed to be in the midst of a long, starlit stroll into a mystical universe more akin to our dreams than anything in real life.
And with the glut of selfie-obsessed IG stars set on endless repeat, and endlessly tweaked clickbait news headlines on constant attack, “real life” seems to feel more and more redundant every day.
So, having walked this misty mile, who can blame Chiuri for wanting to abandon her fantasy world this season and tackle “real life,” especially in a time of social upheaval unseen since the ‘60s, where an ideological war is raging in how we define some basic ideas in our society. The tagline “We should all be feminists” has never been more timely or à propos, the real shame being that some people should need reminding to look after their fellow human beings in the first place.
And yet, although the new military-inflected collection succeeds in being in step with the tempo of our times, something is lost. And where Spring ’17 was something so new and different that Monsieur Dior could have never predicted it, and yet would have been quite proud of it, I think, this season’s reinvention risks bringing Dior into an overlap with brands like Saint Laurent or Hood by Air, and entering markets where many a designer has already “feared” to safely tread.
Sometimes, as Tina Turner once sang, “We don’t need another hero.”
There are enough cookie-cutter “cool kids” in every corner of the fashion landscape, making enough of sound and fury (sometimes signifying nothing, other times much) to last a lifetime.
Sometimes we need dreamers and enchanters, to remind us of the better, freer, more magical world we’re fighting for.